Save Our Hospital petition goes to No10

CHRIS BISHOP A petition containing more than 6,000 signatures has been handed into Downing Street by campaigners fighting to save one of Norfolk's threatened community hospitals.

CHRIS BISHOP

A petition containing more than 6,000 signatures has been handed into Downing Street by campaigners fighting to save one of Norfolk's threatened community hospitals.

Norfolk Primary care Trust is proposing to close all 18 beds at Swaffham Community Hospital, as part of a review into the way intermediate care is delivered across the county.

The trust, which runs nine community hospitals with 200 beds between them, inherited a £50m debt when six smaller care trusts merged to form it last October.

It says it could improve care and save money by replacing hospital beds with more nurses and support workers to care for people in their own homes.

But in Swaffham, angry campaigners say closing beds would be a devastating blow to the community.

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South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser led a delegation to 10 Downing Street to present a petition of more than 6,500 signatures in support of the hospital.

He was joined by Swaffham Mayor Shirley Matthews, Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood and David Poynton, chairman of Swaffham & District Pensioners Association.

Mr Fraser said: “We have to get across to the Government that the closure of the intermediate care beds at Swaffham Hospital would be a devastating blow to the community.

“There is clear evidence that the Health Service is in worse financial shape than at any time in its history, and ministers are looking for a short-term fix to a long-standing problem. This petition will draw attention to the strength of feeling locally and kick-start our campaign to fight the proposals announced yesterday.”

Swaffham Mayor Shirley Matthews said, “Much of the equipment including the beds themselves have been bought with funds raised by the local community, who have supported the Hospital magnificently over the years. To close the facility would be a real slap in the face to the town and the many elderly people who rely on it for care.”

A PCT spokesman said: ”Swaffham Hospital is one of the nine community hospitals that are affected by the Intermediate Care Services review. By restructuring Intermediate Care Services in Swaffham we aim to be able to provide better care for patients with better outcomes. Patients may have to travel slightly further but will receive excellent specialist care in return.

“It is important to remember that no decisions have been made and we are not proposing any closures at the moment. Proposals on each of the community hospitals will go through a robust public consultation process. The consultation period with nine public drop-in meetings is planned to ensure that everybody has a chance to give us their views.

“We understand that patients and the local communities are concerned at the moment about future services, but we can reassure members of the public that we promise to listen to what they have to say through our consultation period.”